A consensus that further isolates a repressive Israel
The latest international condemnation of Israel will receive the usual denunciation, but it is becoming harder to deny. There is a growing international consensus that Israel is constructing a repressive system governing Palestinians that can be compared to apartheid South Africa. It is a mark of shame, and one that Israel has tried to reject.
The Swedish government yesterday announced that it had thrown its support behind a new book, Colonialism and Apartheid - the Israeli occupation in Palestine, by providing funds for the project as a humanitarian aid project. A joint Swedish-Palestinian collaboration, the book accuses Israel of practising a system of apartheid and calls for an international boycott - as South Africa was isolated before the apartheid regime collapsed.
"Apartheid" is a loaded term that conjures decades of racist white-minority rule in South Africa. Caution is warranted when applying it to the situation of Palestinians living in Israel and the Occupied Territories - after all the injustices that they face need no exaggeration. But in many ways it is an apt comparison.
At a meeting in Cape Town earlier this month, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine concluded that Israel is subjecting Palestinians to an "institutionalised regime of domination" in varying forms. In short, the control over people's movements, livelihoods and basic human rights constitutes a form of apartheid.
Based on the Tribunal on Vietnam, created by the late British philosopher Bertrand Russell, this tribunal on Palestine operates as a model international court. After considering the treatment endured by Palestinians, the tribunal concluded that Israel's dominion does indeed amount to apartheid as defined by international law.
That the findings come out of South Africa is particularly important. When apartheid finally came tumbling down, it was thanks to a period of sustained sanctions against the ruling National Party that effectively banished the country into the international wilderness. It was one of the few occasions where such wide-ranging sanctions achieved the desired results.
Effective economic and diplomatic sanctions against Israel remain a possibility, although perhaps a distant one given the United States' bias. However, Washington was a latecomer to impose sanctions against Pretoria as well. For now, we can recognise that Israel's continued and increasing repression is a crime against Palestinians and a shame to itself.
Updated: November 21, 2011 04:00 AM